Steve Smith had everything going his way. He was on top of his game, reeling off centuries and had reached the pinnacle of his batting abilities. And, he was captain of the Australian cricket team.
Once the hullabaloo about the ball tampering dies down, the realities of what he did will befall upon Smith. It can be described in one word – madness. A career which was peaking has just slid down the drain covered in mud. Wherever he goes, Smith will be branded a cheat.
It is not easy to live these things down. That air of suspicion about Smith’s trustworthiness will remain for as long as he will play cricket.
But is Smith to blame entirely for this, or for that matter David Warner, or Cameron Bancroft?
The answer obviously lies in the brutal culture being followed by Aussies for the past few years. It has just gotten worse. The Australian mantra has been to win at all costs. If that is done within the spirit of the game, it’s fine and even welcome. But behaving like demented characters, mouthing bad language and making faces is just not done.
During the ongoing series with South Africa, Aussie paceman Pat Cummins was murmuring a few choice words and making faces at A B de Villiers after he missed a short ball. He repeated it again after De Villiers did the same. It wasn’t funny. De Villiers is a champion batsman and Cummins should know that. He did not react to the Australian bowler nor was he rattled. He had gone through this before…
One can understand a bit of sledging now and then to rattle players. But, doing it all the time doesn’t wash. But this is the new aggro culture in which the Australian cricket is bred and sledging is just a part of it.
Why has coach Darren Lehmann been spared? Many former cricketers have expressed surprise that he did not know about it.
Whatever the truth is, Lehmann is still guilty of encouraging this ugly culture within the team. Lehmann did nothing when Warner had a spat with South African bowler Kagiso Rabada. He could have pulled them apart but he a mute spectator.
With the Australian performances getting uneven recently, bad behaviour has taken an upswing. The current series with South Africa has been one of the worst in terms of behaviour. That Australia are 1-2 down has added fuel to the fire.
In fact not only the players, but the entire management of the Australian team must take share of the blame. They did not act when things got ugly. They pardoned their players easily, “citing heat of the moment”.
What the Australians fail to understand is that these players are heroes to millions of young fans all over the world who notice and ape their mannerisms.
Thankfully this time, everybody, from the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the sports crazy fans have expressed deep disapproval. Turnbull has even called a halt to sledging by the Australian team. Now that the whole nation is shocked, the Australian team will be forced to change their approach.
Every action by the team will now be under the microscope. We may now see a new breed of Australian cricketers, well-mannered and fair just like their counterparts from across the Tasman – New Zealand.
So before we condemn Smith, Warner and Bancroft for their acts, we must think. It’s not only them, but the whole Australian cricket culture that has to take the blame for the fiasco.